Re: Schonfield, sales, and scholarship
- On 3 Jul 98, at 8:30, Tom Simms wrote:
> Oh? so he did the Goldwater number after all...well, well.Neither Benjamin Disraeli nor Barry Goldwater can properly be said to
have "done a number". Disraeli was baptized by his father at a young
age when he himself could hardly be said to have engineered it as a
stratagem. Barry Goldwater's father, Baron, married an Episcopalian. By
Jewish religious law he was not Jewish, and neither was his upbringing.
- Mike Grondin wrote:
> Why Schoenfield never fared as well within the academic community asMike, Tom, et al:
> Pagels and Crossan, e.g., may very well have to do with his adopting a
> "stand-offish" attitude - I don't know, but Tom seems to suggest as
> much. I can't really understand this attitude myself, but perhaps it had
> something to do with his background or circumstances, or with the
> response that his 1966 work met with.
I am not intimate enough with HJS & his detractors to give a definitive
explanation of his shunning by NT scholars. But my own neo-Orthodox
education in the 60s & experience for the past dozen+ years in the JS
enables me to make an educated guess.
First of all, HJS's work had the character of a public expose. And
conservative scholars have a distinct distaste for having their privates
printed on the cover of the Daily News where they can be oggled by every
commuter. Thus, the knee-jerk reaction of academics in the case of both
HJS & the JS was to cover their bare bottoms. If HJS's theses had been
published in a form that was unattractive to average readers, with
learned comments on traditional sources & other scholars' theses, I am
pretty certain it would have had its advocates in academic circles, just
as Crossan does. Crossan could get away with publishing his
*Revolutionary Biography* because he first published his massive
scholarly *HJ: Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant* which few
non-scholars would have the patience to wade through. Crossan learned
from HJS's case.
Second, orthodox forces controlled more academic castles in the 60s than
they do today. So, there was always an ample supply of sharpshooters to
pick off anyone who attempted a siege or lead a defection. And several
of them were skilled popularizers themselves. No sooner had SGF Brandon
published his massive scholarly argument for Jesus the Zealot than Oscar
Cullmann undercut him with a lucid common-sense popular tract that made
such a hypothesis sound ridiculous. So, many like me read Cullmann first
& never bothered reading Brandon, at least not until his book was long
out of print. Morton Smith's Jesus the Magician met a similar fate. JAT
Robinson escaped only because he abandoned his *Honest to God* campaign
to become spokesman for the Anglican right. But his championship of
radical theses in that direction (e.g., The Priority of John) eventually
discredited him with moderate scholars.
Had Bob Funk published his *Honest to Jesus* before convening a seminar
of academic colleagues to debate the issues in public, I bet he would
have been effectively marginalized by the likes of LT Johnson, B
Witherington, & NT Wright: all skilled in non-academic public debate.
Funk's decision to serve as interpreter of the JS until our research was
complete was a brilliant tactical ploy in the battle of the media. The
spectacle of a group of scholars doing what scholars are supposed to do
& reaching a relative "consensus" (gotta qualify that word again) on
conclusions that are not part of the "tradition" familiar to people in
the pews, has enabled the JS to withstand the slings & arrows &
outrageous barbs of individual elitists. For an individual radical can
easily be dismissed as a kook; but polls are always an effective tool
for influencing public opinion. And so far the JS critics have not been
very adept in organizing their own.
In the 50s & 60s the cracks in the (neo)orthodox fortress of infallible
biblical truth were already quite evident to anyone within academia (as
I was). The castle almost crumbled when the 1964 Drew Colloquium (which
I helped host during my senior year as a seminarian) spawned the Death
of God theology. But it weathered that storm when the Death of God
theologians decided to all go their separate ways. The strategic mistake
of critical scholars like HS, Morton Smith & SGF Brandon is that they
preferred to play the role of David single-handedly challenging the
Philistines, than to pool their resources in a common project that
respected their different viewpoints. The latter strategy is largely
responsible for the JS's longevity. Funk was wise enough to realize that
it's relatively easy to swat one gad-fly; it's a lot harder to eliminate
a swarm of hornets.
Mahlon H. Smith,
Department of Religion
New Brunswick NJ
>I'm not against book sales. I think I'm just against the idea that a book
>>Perhaps it is the idea that there is something hidden or to
>>quote logium 17 GTH, "Jesus said, 'I shall give you what no eye has seen
>>and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has never
>>occurred to the human mind.'" People like the idea of exclusivity or
>>scandal. This is what sells books.
> Are you against book sales? Something has to carry the freight of
> all the academic "on the record" stuff that Glazes Eyes Over. Most
> presses do academic publishing as fill-in. Crosstalk has become a
> morass of views of text analyses. Yet the same crowd can't even do
> their own researching the Archives. Deliver me!
needs to contain some sort of scandal (or dare I say sex) in order to sell.
A book must also be readable. I have problems with Barbara Thierings
"Jesus the Man" since almost two-thirds of it is appendices. It's almost
as bad as "James the Just in the Habakkuk Pesher" where almost half of each
page is taken up with footnotes. This makes it difficult to read.
>Some of my research states that a number of the fables were written during
>>As you write of the dependence or independence of Thomas, how do you
>>classify logium 102? Jesus said, "Woe to the pharisees, for they are like
>>a dog sleeping the mager of oxen, for neither does he eat nor does he let
>>the oxen eat." This is a fable usually attributed to Aesop! Who wrote it
>>first? A number of the fables we attribute to Aesop are said to have been
>>written during the first half of the first century ACE.
> Now THAT"S the best thing in your post. We tried to dig into these
> correspondences but never did. I keep mentioning how and when
> Petronius knew of the teachings of Jesus, a point allowing early
> datings of all the accounts. What's the use?
the first part of the first century ACE. They were satires on the
political situation in Rome. Does the dog-in-the-manger fit here?
I don't know whether Barbara Thiering did any better with "Jesus the
Man" than she did in "Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls",
which I read some number of years ago, but I can tell you that I was not
favorably impressed with the latter. What struck me about it was not so
much that her main thesis was so unusual, as that she spent so little
effort arguing for it. One would think that, if someone has an unusual
theory, the main effort would be in marshalling support for it. Instead,
Thiering seemed to be more concerned with the internal consistency of
the theory, which, while important, would seem secondary in such a case.
I kept waiting for her to say, "And here's why you should believe in my
theory..." She never did, to my recollection, which is probably why I
was so frustrated with the book, in spite of the fact that it contained
some useful factual information in those voluminous appendices.
Same basic complaint would go for such as Earl Doherty (who claims that
there was no historical Jesus). If you've got an unusual theory (and I
do, by the way, so these same comments apply to me), your number one
task is to make that theory plausible - not just internally consistent
or "possible" - but plausible. If you can't do that, you shouldn't
expect to be taken seriously by scholars, and you won't be.
Obviously, I don't believe that Schonfield's writings are of the same
order as those above-mentioned, in spite of the fact that he also is
rarely mentioned in respectable bibliographies. I think that, in his
case, it's more an accident of timing and strategy than a lack of
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